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Biotechnology and Negative Effects on the Environment

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Biotechnology and Negative Effects on the Environment

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  • November 17, 2012
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Biotechnology and Negative Effects on the Environment
By Helen Anderson, eHow Contributor
Agricultural biotechnology poses numerous harms to the environment. Lauded by some as the future of food but lambasted by others for its potential risks to human health and the natural world, biotechnology is a subject of fierce debate. Biotechnology, or the genetic modification of organic materials such as corn and soybeans, plays a major role in national and international agricultural production. While proponents maintain that biotechnology can ease world hunger, scientists and consumers alike express their concern for its potential harms to the environment.

Biodiversity
Earth contains ecosystems whose health depends on a balance, known as biodiversity, of different plant and animal species. Biotechnology potentially threatens biodiversity by introducing a single type of organism, such as a genetically modified seed, across a wide area. In an article published in 2001, renown agricultural ecologist Dr. Miguel Altieri of the University of California, Berkeley, demonstrates that in areas where genetically modified crops have been introduced, plants have lost some of their natural resistance to drought or other adverse conditions. He attributes this loss to the lack of biodiversity that makes ecosystems strong and better able to withstand insects or inclement weather. Contamination

As of 2011, no safeguards exist to ensure that agricultural biotechnology remains confined to a given area. In the United States and the European Union, policymakers grapple with how to regulate the distribution of genetically modified materials. Wind, birds and insects often distribute genetically modified seeds into surrounding areas and contaminate non-genetically modified crops. In a paper presented in 2003, Margaret Mellon, Ph.D., the director of the Food and Environment Program at the Union of Concerned Scientists, maintains that this unanticipated pollination has the potential to...